Tuesday, March 17, 2009

RIM bullish on India market

RIM has announced plans for selling *unlocked* BlackBerrys in India [ET ]. Redington has been drafted to play the local distribution support to work in tandem with telcos to push the niche smartphones to the *consumer* market. In the last post I highlighted the trend of smartphone sales picking up in India. BlackBerry has drafted a strategy specifically targeting the Indian market involving development of localized consumer-centric mobile applications and even considers launching an India-specific smartphone targeted at the consumer market. BlackBerry has had a good market in India in the enterprise segment with virtually every company rolling rolling out their push-email services on BlackBerry.

Around the same time comes the news of Motorola closing down its sales office in India [ET ]. Notwithstanding Motorola's recent troubles, this tells a tale of the changing market. The lower end of the market entices with volume, but the burgeoning vendors in this segment make it very unattractive in terms of margins. After a lull, the grey market is flourishing with lot of cheap handsets from China and elsewhere and they are taking the game out of the major vendors. Now the space in the higher end smartphone market is getting expanded and vendors should take cues from the policy makers and market to reap the dividends from momentous things such as 3G rollout.

Many phones, one cool phone and some phones

Today we know how many Nokia phones were sold and how many Apple iPhones were sold for the last quarter and it talks a lot about the way their marketing has gone.

Nokia shipped 15 million phones in the 3rd quarter down from 18 million in Q3 2007 and marginally lower than the previous quarter. Nokia did better on E-Series compared to N-Series.

In the same quarter, Apple's iPhone sold 4.4 millions devices which was significantly higher than last year but also significantly lower than the last quarter.

Nokia goes to market with enviably large lineup of consumer phones - N-Series and business phones - E-Series with basically the same underlying software S60 and is available on most markets and traditionally been strong in Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific markets.

Apple is available in its iconic iPhone model *only* so far but has scooped the North American market. As it is getting available in other world markets, iPhone killer pretenders have started started to appear in these markets too denting Apple's ability to create the same impact as the North American market.

That Apple could garner the sales it has has shown that the market is always prime for neatly packaged and marketed product which is backed by *design* selling points. It has to be noted that iPod was a pointer in this direction. Apple replicated not only the design selling points of iPhone but also the revenue engine strategy - App Store much line the iTunes service. Inevitable successes as they are they highlighted a sustaining business model which other players including Nokia could'nt figure out earlier. But it was anyway there to the see - the iPod model was there. Apple may well do the iPod redux for the iPhone - Nano and themes built around the same icon.

Nokia's Tube, its earnest challenger to iPhone comes with free music and seems to take the fight to the iPhone camp. However, the story is that the E-Series might hold the key for Nokia whose business phones are making compelling alternatives in the enterprise segment.

What about the other contenders? Samsung and LG are doing well in their own right but lose out on the content platform in the long run. HTC has emerged as a good contender with its own avatars of smartpones and then there is the Android factor. One area of mobile usage that is the mobile marketing will be tapped by Android phones when they are widely available.

Android has had a lot of negative press with long delays but has compensated with a winner in G1. With lot of takers for openhandsetalliance, Android is presenting a great means for many of the handset vendors to stay in the race. Many - the Samsungs, LGs, Motorolas, HTC may well gravitate towards Android for lack of compelling content and future could be a tug for equilibrium between Nokia, iPhone and the Android in most markets.

Samsung BEATDJ (Samsung GT-M7600)

The Samsung BEATDJ (also called the Samsung M7600) is an attractively designed multimedia touchscreen phone, aimed at those who want to do more than just listen to their music.

Apart from the attractive styling, what sets the BEATDJ apart from other phones is the music playback software. Budding DJs can remix their favourite tracks by adding effects, mixing them together or even performing scratches through the M7600's specially designed music playback interface (called DISC UI).

In reality, probably only a small number of BEATDJ owners will use these advanced capabilities, and they will stick to straightforward music playback. The BEATDJ has a B&O ICEpower amplifier, built-in stereo speakers, virtual surround sound and a standard 3.5 mm audio socket plus a number of other enhancements which will make the Samsung BEATDJ an excellent music player.

The large 2.8" 240 x 400 pixel display is also useful for playing back video clips, and the BEATDJ M7600 supports DivX, XviD, H.263. H.264 and MPEG4 video types. The built-in accelerometer automatically turns the screen between wide and tall orientations.The Samsung BEATDJ has a 3 megapixel camera on the back with autofocus and flash. The camera uses the M7600's built-in GPS to automatically geotag photos, and it also has smile detection and face detection software built in. Video capture resolution appears to be 640 x 480 pixels at 15 frames per second, which is OK but not as good as some. Despite the relatively low resolution of the camera, it will probably be good enough for most users.It isn't clear exactly what added value features the GPS system comes with, but it does seem to be able to do more than just geotag photos.

Other features include an FM radio with RDS, stereo Bluetooth 2.1, USB 2.0 connectivity, video editing, and mobile blogging.

Underneath, this is a quad-band GSM phone with UMTS and HSDPA support, presumably in the 2100 MHz band. The M7600 does not appear to have WiFi. Overall size is 112 x 51 x 14mm, and the BEATDJ has a 960 mAh battery which we think might be a little on the small side for a device of this type. Internal memory is 50MB, expandable to 16GB using a compatible microSD card.At the moment we are unsure as to when the BEATDJ will hit the market, but we think that this attractive phone will enjoy some attention when it finally does hit the streets.

Nokia E75

The Nokia E75 is a messaging smartphone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Designed for people who want a full-sized keypad as found on the E90, but who don't want to carry around a brick, the E75 could be thought of as the spiritual successor to the old Nokia 9300i.One immediately obvious compromise here is the size of the screen, which is a fairly standard 2.4" 240 x 320 pixel panel. The E90 has a massive 800 pixel wide display, and this really makes a difference when web browsing, but really the key target audience for the E75 is email users.

Nokia E75 Nokia have added a number of features to the E75 to enable it to access all types of email. The E75 supports several different types of consumer email accounts for hassle-free setup, plus support for Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Nokia Messaging. Of course, the E75 also supports standard internet protocols such as POP3 and IMAP, and it can also access corporate VPNs. Enterprise users will also appreciate the device and memory card encryption which should help to prevent data breaches.It's not all work though, the Nokia E75 allows two customisable home screens, one for business and one for personal use. There's a media player, FM radio, a standard 3.5mm audio socket and Ovi integration for file sharing. On the back is a fairly standard 3.2 megapixel camera capable of VGA resolution video recording.

The E75 comes with GPS and Nokia Maps preloaded onto the supplied memory card, it should also work with Google Maps if you prefer.

This is a quad-band GSM phone with tri-band UMTS / WCDMA support (depending on region). The Nokia E75 also has WiFi, stereo Bluetooth, USB 2.0 connectivity and microSD expandable memory. At 139 grams, the E75 is still a little on the heavy side, but it is 71 grams lighter than the E90.This is a phone that you will either see a need for, or you won't. But it will probably appeal to people who do a lot of messaging and find smaller keyboards too fiddly.

Nokia say that the E75 should be available during Q1 2009 in black, red and copper colour combinations at a price of around €375 before tax and subsidy.

Nokia N86 8MP

The Nokia N86 8MP is Nokia's first 8 megapixel camera phone, representing a step up from the Nokia N85 and sharing many features with the Nokia N96.Clearly, the camera is the main feature here. As well as having an 8 megapixel sensor, the N86 8MP has a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens, autofocus, and a dual LED flash. The lens features wide angle optics, and the N86 also has a very high shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. Video capture resolution is 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second, which is good.. although some of the competition are now coming up with HD video recording.

Like the N85 and N96, this is a two-way slider and it shares the N96's "kick step" which allows it to be placed on a desk. The display is a fairly standard 2.6" 240 x 320 pixel OLED panel that we have seen on high-end Nokia phones before. Sadly, this is not a touchscreen device.

The N86 8MP is quite heavy, weighing
in at 149 grams, more than 20 grams heavier than the
N85 and N96. It's hard to see why this should be the
case, although the N86 8MP does come with scratch-resistant
glass. The battery is the same large 1200 mAh BL-5K unit
found in the N85, and this gives the N86 8MP up to 4
hours talktime and 11 days standby time on 3G.

Internal memory is an impressive 8GB
and this can be expanded by a further 16GB using a hot-swappable
microSD card.

 Nokia N86 8MP All
the usual N-Series features are here, including a multimedia
player capable of supporting MPEG4, 3PG, H.263, H.264,
MP3, WMA and AAC file types. There is also an FM radio
plus an FM transmitter, allowing you to play back over
a car or home stereo wirelessly. There is a standard
3.5mm audio socket, or alternatively you can use a stereo
Bluetooth connection or the built-in stereo speakers.

This is a 3.5G phone with dual-band
HSDPA support, quad-band GSM and WiFi. GPS is a pretty
standard feature on Nokia's high-end phones, and it
is included in the N86 8MP along with Nokia Maps, it
also has a built-in digital compass in case you need
to do some "old school" navigation. Photographs
can be automatically geotagged with the location that
they were taken.

This is a Symbian S60 smartphone, and it comes with a wide array of built-in applications including a web browser, document viewer, ZIP manager and email client. New applications can be added through the upcoming Ovi Store. There are also a wide range of personal information management tools, and the N86 8MP supports N-Gage gaming.

This is quite a nice device, though more of an evolution of previous designs than a revolution. Apart from a few minor enhancements, the main improvement here is the camera rather than anything else.

Nokia say that the N86 should be available during Q2 2009 at an unsubsidized pre-tax price of around €375.

The LG KT770 is a sliding Symbian phone, an unusual addition to LG's range which usually avoids smartphones like this.The very low-key launch of the KT770 is frustrating - we have some specifications, one photo and not much more to go on. One of their previous Symbian phones, the KT610 was let down by a lack of commitment from LG, and we are concerned that this interesting phone might meet the same fate.

This is an "N95 class" device with a 2.8" 240 x 400 pixel display, GPS, WiFi, 3.5G support and a 5 megapixel digital camera, all wrapped up in an elegant looking slider format.

The 400 pixel wide display is useful for web browsing or navigating when the KT770 is turned on its side. Most Nokias can only manage 320 pixels, so the KT770 has the advantage here.

The 5 megapixel camera has facial recognition, smile shot and a panoramic function, it looks like it has a flash too and we are guessing that it has autofocus. The KT770 can geotag photos using the pre-installed locr application.he GPS can be used with Ovi Maps, or there is a free 15 day trial of Navigon. Presumably, you can also use the KT770 with Google Maps.

Other included software includes a Facebook application, a Fring client for VOIP and instant messaging and a version of QuickOffice so that users can work with Office documents. There's a multimedia player, but no mention of an FM radio.This is a dual-band UMTS device with HSDPA, plus quad-band GSM. Maximum download speed is 7.2Mbps, and there are two different versions of the handset with different RF band support. Internal memory is either 1GB or 2GB, expandable to 16GB using a microSD card. Battery life is unknown, but we think that the include 950 mAh battery will probably offer only a couple of hours talktime on 3G.

This is a pretty cool looking phone and a competent rival to the Nokia N96 and Samsung i8510. We can only hope that LG give this phone the attention it deserves.

Samsung i7410 Projector Phone Preview

The Samsung i7410 is a smartphone with a built-in projector, capable of beaming out an image of up to 50 inches diagonally in size.Samsung's details are a bit sketchy - the i7410 comes with a 3.2" 240 x 400 pixel touchscreen and a 5 megapixel camera, it measures 112 x 57 x 17mm, but we don't know what operating system it runs, although as an "i" series phone the i7410 should definitely be a smartphone. This is a 3G device with video calling, but there is no mention of WiFi support.

Samsung i7410 rotated We just have a single photograph of the i7410 to go on at the moment. Manipulating the press photo shows the front facing camera, a call and end button and a circular control pad. It looks a little bit light the Omnia, but there are no real clues as to what might be underneath.A video clip from reveals more about the i7410 and indicates that this is a 3G device with a comprehensive media player, FM radio, a large 1440 mAh battery and microSD expandable memory. The i7410 runs the TouchWiz interface, but as that runs on either Windows or Symbian then we still don't know exactly what kind of smartphone this is.

This is definitely a very clever bit of kit, and it will no doubt be very impressive when you do an entire presentation directly from your phone, or show off some video clips to your friends. But ultimately, is the i7410 actually of any practical use? We don't know, but Samsung can let the market decide on this one whenever it comes out.